Monday, January 12, 2009

Excursion Article Series 11.08.08: Biking in Grand Teton during off season allows for certain...freedoms

Caption: I'm pretty sure we weren't supposed to have our bikes on the lake shore, but it sure was fun getting them there.

Excursion: Biking on the inner park road to Jenny Lake
Length: An hour or two unless your wife’s about to pop.
Directions: Park at the Taggart Lake trailhead, ignore the gate across the road and head into the park on your bike. Yeah, it’s sweet like that.

If anyone else saw me on the road they’d probably swear I was drunk. Don’t worry, though. I don’t drink.

That’s just how I ride when I’ve got the whole road to myself.

Caption: I love having the whole road to myself. Of course when that's the case, there's only one way to ride: right down the middle of the road. Those yellow lines make for a great guide to remain centered on the road. Woohoo!

Every year I am sad to see the park close the gates just past the Taggart Lake trailhead. But at least there’s one perk: being able to weave and slalom on a bike around the yellow lines on the inner park road. They close the road to cars on November 1, but any maniac still willing to brave the weather can take a non-motorized vehicle as far as they like on the road.

My own maniacal tendencies pulled my wife, who’s approximately three days from giving birth, and I out on a rainy day to experience the spontaneous lane shifts. There’s something explicitly joyful about ignoring all traffic laws and weaving across both lanes of traffic - double yellow line or not - just because you can. There is, however, the slight danger that authorized government vehicles will be using the road.

During our recent expedition on the park road to South Jenny Lake, only one park vehicle passed me and my wife. And where not many were willing to brave the cold and rain for a day in the park, we could hear the truck coming a mile away. We had ample time to cease and desist on our slalom routine and find the narrow bike lane. By the way, park employees, if any of you have a spare key to those gates that you wouldn’t mind giving up, I know of a talented local columnist that could come up with a few uses for one.


During this time of year, the weather can get a touch…uncooperative, if you will. When I was a Boy Scout, my Scoutmaster decided it would be a great idea to get our biking merit badge during November while the park road was closed to traffic. It was snowing lightly when we arrived for one of our rides, but our “be preparedness” insisted that we start out despite our shoddy clothing. We were ready for anything in our light jackets, Levis and baseball caps.


Anyway, we set out from the parking lot and before long the snow started coming down harder. And faster. And thicker. It was all good, at least we could see the road.

That didn’t last long either.

Before we knew it, where the black strip of road had once cut a swatch through the early-season snow, nothing but a slightly flatter ribbon of snow remained. The snow drove so hard we could hardly open our eyes.

My jacket and purple Phoenix Suns cap I had won in a video arcade in Arizona suddenly seemed insufficient.

Our Scoutmaster sagely turned the troop around well short of our 20-mile goal (I think we’d gone about a mile) and we headed for the parking lot. Trouble was, that road was hard to see in the hurricane-like whiteout that now enveloped us. If it weren’t for the reflector poles lining the flat area of snow, we might just have wound up “scout-cicles” somewhere in the frozen waste. A search party would have found our troop somewhere on the sagebrush flats, huddled together close enough to be comradely without touching. After all, no self-respecting teenage boy is gonna be literally caught dead cuddling up to another one for warmth.

Back in the present, the worst we had to endure was a smattering of rain and some contractions. Not me. Never me. My pregnant wife. Obviously. Sympathy pains can only go so far.

We made it to Jenny Lake where we were treated to a great view of the snowstorm across the lake. It was beautiful, and the rain magnified the wonderful smells of sagebrush, pine and willows transitioning to winter. Even my wife, who came out in the rain with a pooch the size of a swollen basketball, agreed it was worth the effort.

Caption: AmberLynn was about a week from giving birth when we did this ride together. She is so glad she went even though she couldn't go too fast and it was raining on us.

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